As their brand new album (I was lucky to hear the songs in full format, well, really great soundscapes, amazing experiments and brave rock – an LP/SACD to have) is coming out very soon, we had a good thought exchange with John Michie, leader of The John Michie Collective on life and music, Earth and future, people and government actions.The difference they make in music, their pathfinding, alternative, psychadelic rock ways is reflected in John Michie‘s thinking, too. Personally, I enjoyed the time sharing minds. So, keep on reading, you’ll surely find good music and ideas!
And while you are at it, listen to “I’ll Write Your Constellation” from The John Michie Collective here:
Music Authentic: Welcome to Music Authentic! Our site traditional question is: How did you sleep last night?
John Michie: You have got me laughing straight away. I slept ok thank you. No dreams that I can remember but I am as well rested as I can get. I have a cat called Yoko that likes waking me up at 3am. She thankfully settled down after she realised I wasn’t going to let her out.
Music Authentic: And what did you have for breakfast?
John Michie: I actually skipped breakfast this morning and had curry and chips. I did start my morning with 3 large cups of coffee though. I can’t wake up without it. Caffeine junky!
Music Authentic: How much do you miss the live gigs?
John Michie: Going to gigs I really miss. I had a few that were booked like Noel Gallagher in Manchester and Paul Weller in Newcastle before Covid hit. I actually don’t have much hope for 2021 being business as usual either. Just a depressing era currently and there has been very little support for the arts from the government, as well as from institutions like the BBC. No extra radio or TV play has been given to the unsigned acts that can’t tour. I miss a lot of things about gigs though. One thing is for sure, I will never take for granted again spending over £5 for a flat pint which someone spills across my feet.
Music Authentic: The hassle what comes with being on the stage for a show can be so overwhelming if we consider all the efforts to make it happen. If you had known all the challenges and annoyances, setback would have you still chosen this musical path?
John Michie: I am in the funny position of having never being on a stage so I guess I will have to say yes. I have done busking in London whilst heavily drunk… does that count? I thought I sounded great. I decided to do something with my musical career after hearing the album Visions by Grimes and learning she had done it all herself. I had been writing songs since aged 15 and decided why not! By the time I got to the stage of having my album 90% done the pandemic hit so everything has been a digital adventure. I think because of these circumstances I see myself more as a Brian Wilson type producer that creates and records but doesn’t tour.
Music Authentic: Who is the craziest artist you have ever shared a green room with?
John Michie: As I haven’t performed yet… I will say… I have been down the pub with Amy Winehouse at the Good Mixer in London a year or two before she died. She was a real mess which probably wasn’t a surprise. Tipping pints over the pool table and getting in people’s faces. You couldn’t communicate with her. One of her entourage was also dishing out drugs like leaflets. That was pretty crazy but I guess what I learnt was “surround yourself with decent people who look after you”.
Music Authentic: Why rock? It’s not really a “trend”…
John Michie: These things have unfortunately become fashion rather than musical trends in what is called the mainstream. This is where it all went wrong. I think there is a real hunger for decent music still and the people at the top of record labels and at TV and radio are too stupid to hear it. You need a lobotomy to listen to the top 40, Radio 1 or what Spotify pushes and feel you have heard “bangers”. I am quite scathing… But look whose tours sell out and what albums are still shifting in large quantities and it is all the old guard… Fleetwood Mac, Eagles even Noel Gallagher. So, coming full circle, why rock? Because it’s the only thing that still has spirit. Cardi B singing about her bubble but or the like… Really? Bieber… Really?
(The interview continues below these photos – so be brave and keep going on!)
Music Authentic: There are who could benefit from the extra times during lockdowns, however the majority seems to be fed up and stressed or anxious with the establishments’ responses affecting the livelihood and freedom of everyone. What about you?
John Michie: If I am honest, I don’t think the government has gone far enough. I look around and think New Zealand did it right by just waiting it out till there was no virus there. They are having normal lives there with no masks. We were in such a rush to open up and it’s just been a recipe of death and unemployment. I feel very sorry for the bands and artists and also all of the staff that make these gigs happen. I don’t think I feel anger towards the government as I wouldn’t have wanted this on my plate. As already said, I personally feel anger towards institutions like the BBC, Spotify and YouTube that have done nothing for us indies. They are the distributors and they are still shovelling Beyonce or the like that have millions in the bank down our throats. They have not given us larger air time, an audience or larger royalties. We cannot tour. This is when people stayed at home and music consumerism increased in terms of sales. But we haven’t seen it. I think the BBC doing nothing for us in the UK has been especially unforgivable considering they are supposed to be a state broadcaster and reflect society. The reality is money talks and their gravy train has not stopped. That is the wider picture that I see. I am struggling with the indies in this environment and trying to get traction/attention is hard. I do feel though that online on social media us musicians have started to develop a scene. I feel we are making the best of it and we’re having fun. We are being ignored but I think most of us have gone passed caring. I also believe that the media will end up having to pay attention to us as that is really where the heart of the arts currently is… and these relationships have started to really cement between us indies.
Music Authentic: There is this constant nightmare with streaming companies who got to take more advantages on indie artists than terrestrial radios and big labels earlier. And to be honest, no one can truly pay attention to music 24/7, so, even the new songs can sink into “background noise”… How do you see, is it really a “blessing” or more of a “curse” these days?
John Michie: I am not sure what I think really. Spotify or YouTube are great from the perspective that everyone now has access to music if you have connection to the internet. That is not a bad thing. It also allows kids to make music and not sign their life over to a Tom Parker. So I am quite favourable in my opinion. Bandcamp too also provides some sources of income. I think what is more of a curse is we all know that these things are run by algorithms. Now if Willie Nelson had written the algorithm I probably have faith in it but it isn’t. It is some maths dude that doesn’t know his Phil Collins from his Dusty Springfield. On balance I would say despite the faults it is a blessing.
Music Authentic: What about AIs? There is a tendency to want computers written music as radio/ambient/elevator music instead of actual songwriters…
John Michie: I have been talking about this with a musical friend of mine called Genetic Effects. Check his stuff out he’s good. We have concluded that all this AI music will sound the same in the end. Like how the hall snare on 80s music was fashion, or the Brick Wall Owen Morris mastering dominated the 90s and 00s. You still need to be creative so pre-sets won’t cut the mustard in 30 years. I think AI has been great with the advent of assistants like Izotope plugins. The fact you can save up for plugins that do a pretty professional job has made it accessible for the average kid. That is great and I am all for the democracy in that.
Music Authentic: Let’s look a bit around: scientists once again called upon us, the people to challenge the establishments and have better decision-makers who –instead of fine-tuning – are willing to initiate radical changes, out of comfort zones and traditions to preserve the hope of a sustainable future. Do you think we still have the chance for this hope or let’s just stop having children, it’s “over”?
John Michie: I think the future is pretty dark when I read about climate change or plastic pollution. I think a lot of people still don’t realise that were going to have multiple feet’s worth of sea level rises within the next 80 years and that eco-systems are at the verges of collapse. I don’t know what to think though. They had this in the 1960s with nuclear war. There has always been a threat. I have faith in science though and I would like to believe that if we really do mess things up we will be able to figure out how to piece things back together. If we do mess it up I think that putting things back together may take many 100s of years. On balance though I still maintain hope.
Music Authentic: Societies go under tremendous changes for the better, fortunately. Yet, extreme poverty, starvation, lack of proper nutrition and space to live and thrive in seem to grow more and more. What do you think the most urgent issues are to begin a systematic change with?
John Michie: There is enough for everyone and a lot of these issues could be solved in a few decades if effort was put in and maintained. The biggest issue that humans need to deal with is greed. People need to be told they can’t have as much. These people aren’t really the average man or woman either. It’s the billionaires. We also need to stop spending so much on weapons and armaments. There is no need for war or power politics. These resources are everyone’s and we need to work together and share. Sooner or later that will happen whether the establishment wants to admit it or not. I am not calling for an end to capitalism or cutting the Queens head off… I just think things need to be based in reality and not in zeros in a bank statement.
Music Authentic: Now, we had all the reality on Earth, let’s look up the sky? Would you be the part of the Mars settlement?
John Michie: Definitely not! It may be great if we can get Elon off the planet but not for me. I am scared of heights as well. It is hard enough getting me in an airplane. If I could or rather had to go somewhere I’d visit the Moon. I think looking out at space with no planetary atmosphere would probably be very moving… if not almost religious.
Music Authentic: Staying on Earth, which superhero would you rather be on and off screen?
John Michie: They’re all a bit rubbish, aren’t they? The Christopher Nolan Batman’s were ok I guess. Hmm a superhero… I am going to stick my heels in and say I would be Obi Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars. The Jedi mind tricks would come in handy when ordering a large round of drinks down the pub.
Music Authentic: Let’s get back to music a bit: do you plan to continue and release songs this year?
John Michie: Yes, I have three singles out in January, depending when you print this they may all be out. My debut album is out on 12 February. Then I will leave a few weeks for that to soak in before I realise the rest of the stuff in my cupboards. I will also start exploring where I will go next sonically.
Music Authentic: What is the largest dream for you with music, art to attain?
John Michie: I think in truth world domination. I think every musician wants to get to that stage where their songs are in the public conscience. I don’t know or think I am good enough to take on the world and win but it would be enjoyable. I would love to make an era defining album like Dark Side of The Moon. I never understand these stars that say “oh the pressures of fame”… Just go and stay somewhere remote for a few years. Rick Astley did that after all. Use your loaf!
Music Authentic: Right now, we are saying goodbye, and I hope we will catch up in some ways later on. As a goodbye, what would you encourage others with?
John Michie: I would encourage them to be happy and do what they believe is the most important things as soon as they can. Don’t delay life. Be good to each other, be kind and buy my album.
Music Authentic: Thank you for coming!
Listen to Under the Stars from The John Michie Collective here: